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During the High Holy Days, Jews celebrate the beginning of the New Year at the same time they atone for sins committed in the past year.
- On Rosh Hashanah, the mood of celebration and hope is reflected in the round shape of the challah. The circular form symbolizes hope for a smooth year (one without any interruptions of sorrow) to come.
- Raisins are believed to express hope for, and bring sweetness to, the New Year.
- During Yom Kippur, the mood is focused more on atonement for past sins than celebration. The hand, ladder, and bird shapes represent the hope the prayers and atonement will be relayed to heaven, so the Jewish people might ascend to great heights in the coming year.
Challah is rich egg bread served on the Jewish Sabbath and on holidays or other celebrations.Braided challah is generally served on Fridays at Shabbat dinner. Round, coiled loaves are prepared for Rosh Hashanah, and for Yom Kippur, bakers form the bread into hands, ladders, or birds.
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